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Gitl Braun interview

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2007-05-21

Gitl Braun

Gitl Braun

Having spent her entire life living among Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel and the UK, mother of eight Gitl Braun finally had the chance to explore her passion for art once her children had grown up.

The 56-year-old – the daughter of Hungarian-born Holocaust survivors – took up art a decade ago and even went so far as to study at St Martin's College, graduating with a distinction. Now her latest exhibition – Eve's Daughters – which combines digital photography with artistic use of fabric – has gone on show at the Jagonari Women's Educational Resource Centre in East London. SJ's Caroline Westbrook caught up with her for a chat.

What inspires you when it comes to creating art?

Art to me is a way of living. I was very passionate about it in my childhood and I used to paint a little bit but I couldn't focus on it because of the way I was brought up, I had to devote time to my family. Now I have the time to express myself. I'm very interested in working with fabric as a medium, that's something I would like to explore further. I've also been inspired by the artist Georgia Keefe, Caravaggio's Doubting Thomas and many many masterly painters

You went to art college at St Martin's – how would you describe the experience?

I originally went to college to study language, and it was quite a culture shock for me to mix with people from all kinds of backgrounds. But when I came to study art it felt quite natural for me to mix out of my community. I actually felt quite comfortable there.

How long does it take you to put a piece of art together?

It depends, I can spend weeks just experimenting and getting the connection with my inner feeling for the image. It's quite a long process which leads me to the final image.

What are you working on next?

I'd like to explore fabric further, and the way it can convey different feelings. Also I found in Bologna a very very old manuscript, which to me is very precious, personal and special.

How much support have you had from the Jewish community where you live?

None! It was my initiative to become an artist because art in my community is non-existent. The concept of art to them is very very superficial. And it's not so much rare for women in the community to be doing this kind of thing as non-existent. My family are very proud of my work though and very supportive.

What's your own background?

I was born in Haifa, and we moved to Jerusalem when I was four because my mother wanted me to have an Orthodox upbringing. I came to London in 1973, but only learned to speak English six years ago. I was very comfortable with my Yiddish, I could manage in all the local shops, but I had to learn English because of an incident which required me to speak outside of my community.

Eve's Daughters is at the Jagonari Women's Educational Resource Centre, 183-185 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1DN, until June 1. For more information call 0207 375 0520.